As a constant and enthusiastic user of computers, I have occasionally come across programs that have serious bugs. These are programs where you attempt to do something that the program is purportedly capable of doing, but actually is not. The guidance for how to accomplish this task is explicit and clear. The commands are there. The computer should be able to perform the task. In fact, the computer will insist that it is able. But, ultimately, it is not capable. On the Macintosh, this results in a system error. The system error is the bane of the Mac user, because it offers only one solution: turn your computer off, losing everything you have recently put in, and start from the beginning. This is the situation of the Indian who stays within academia. The academic program insists that it can accommodate you. Gives explicit instruction as to how this can be accomplished. You enter the system, begin to have input, then, out of the blue, you get a system error.


The problem is that a system error is incapable of correcting itself. As the user, you merely learn to avoid using that particular function. Unfortunately, the only way to discover a system error is to stumble across it, and be sent back to the beginning. There are a variety of ways to trigger a system error in the academy. The place is riddled with bugs.

 


 

The academic program is not only buggy, but even under optimal conditions, it accepts a very narrow range of input. The slightest variation will bring the system to an absolute halt. An example of the broad-based recognition of this is the proliferation of style guides and manuals. They tell you, down to the most basic question of punctuation, how to prepare work that will run in the academic program. These guides represent the "User's Guide to Academia," and if you follow the recipe carefully, your contributions will be accepted by the program. Indians come from a place where the primary program is different, and has been running for an incredibly long time. Most of the bugs are worked out. Indians enter academia expecting a fundamentally functional program. They expect to press keys labeled "voice," "expression," "meaning," "creativity," and "use," (which are similar to keys in the Indian program) and have something extraordinary happen. Instead, the machine stops. So Indians go home (a place that many white academicians have forgotten exists) or stay in a world they never made.

 

Sitting in a class
watching the conversation rise and fall
I consider air moving and shaking
Each breath removing and relocating
a million molecules torn from their native space
victim to one name barely whispered
and quickly forgotten

I wonder if there are tribes of the air
who fight and die for one small cloud
that they always have
and always will
call home
 
     

 

 

 Forward to Bray, continued
 
     
 

Essays/Interviews Contents Page | Journal Contents Page
 

 

     
 

  standards@colorado.edu


About Standards